Better awareness brings changing behaviour at the Department for Transport

An individually-tailored version of Pearn Kandola’s ‘Mirror’ Workshop is helping The Department for Transport (DfT) to fulfil a key commitment to train senior staff in diversity. Early indications are that the workshop is successfully challenging and changing people’s behaviour.

The workshop, which is essential training for 200 of the DfT’s top tier staff, reflects typical issues and situations they face as leaders. It begins with a variety of exercises to help the Department’s senior teams understand why we have unconscious biases, and how these affect workplace decisions, particularly those made by senior people. Participants then work in groups – looking at relevant case studies and discussing in-depth how personal bias impacts leadership. Time is also devoted to helping them understand their trigger points – the situations where biases will come to the surface even when people are trying to be fair.

“People appreciate that The Mirror isn’t a typical diversity course and have responded very positively,” said Vicky Bawa, DfT’s Diversity Programme Manager. “The turning point is about half way through the workshop when all the elements come together. You can see that people have the got the message.”

There are already signs this is being translated into the workplace, according to Vicky: “In particular, people have commented that being able to reflect on how they behave and react has really brought home to them what they are doing. Now that the unconscious bias is at a conscious level, they can put into practice what they’ve learnt and say they are beginning to challenge assumptions.”

“Pearn Kandola was a natural choice to run the programme, as the Department had previously been involved in their research on unconscious bias. I must say that they have been extremely flexible in meeting our needs and delivering maximum value.”

The Department plans to evaluate the workshop programme once it’s completed, with a view to rolling out The Mirror to other grades.

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